Thursday, November 23, 2017

Whoah. Been a while.

I'm not dead, nor do I intend to abandon the blog forever.

The novel is up to 53,000 words. Actually, the scrap heap also has 87,000 words, but that's not a reliable count; some scenes are represented by four or five scrap heap versions. I'd say that there are about 30,000 words of scrap that may or may not re-enter the main timeline of the novel.

So I've been writing.

Just not here.

Eat turkey!

That is all.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Rambling: Huh.

It's been a while.

The novel is up to 25,000 words.


Apparently that's where my writing time is going.


I'll be back eventually. Hopefully it won't be seven weeks again.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

SOTD: Parfum d'Empire Tabac Tabou

Tabac Tabou. Good name.

I dug through the subset of samples that live in the Tightly Sealed Metal Canister, and this one had by far the most interesting name. I tried to find something else, because it was in one of those pop-top 1ml vials, but nothing else intrigued.

So, after struggling with thumb and fingertips and fingernails and a butterknife over the sink, I finally got it open.  By then the excitement had faded, because the wet traces on the edge of the cap and on my fingernails didn't really smell all that interesting. But I smeared just a little on my wrist, and...


The opening was a civet-forward "what have I done?" moment, a shout of "I'm going to be really dirty!" A blast of animalic and dark-spicy notes that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then the civet apparently shrugged and wandered off, and for the next few minutes I smelled moderately aggressive leather, progressing from well-worn and slightly sweaty to new and clean, a new belt emerging from tissue paper. It was accompanied by a little tobacco, quiet and retiring.


What is that? There's still an echo of leather and pipe smoke, but the main body of the scent has a powdery and faintly creamy vibe. It makes me think tea, not tobacco, but tea with a texture like buttercream cupcake frosting, with a faint crunch of sugar crystals now and then. 

And now I finally look at the notes--I try to force myself to experience at least a few minutes of a scent without looking. Luckyscent says "immortelle, tobacco, narcissus, honey, grass, musk". I'm guessing that the tobacco-tea-cupcake is coming from the honey and immortelle. The honey grows as time passes, with no hint of that urinous thing. I love beeswax, and this is close enough to be pleasing.

By the way, I'm not getting narcissus. At all. Not a hint. 

At this point, the scent also feels vintage. Some scents do a sort of deja vu thing on me, where a new scent announces itself as familiar. My brain is trying to say, "Oh, that smells just like Aunt Amelia always used to smell..." even though there never was an Aunt Amelia. 

I like it. So far I like it a lot. I actually tried it yesterday (SOTY?) but I can still smell it on my wrist if I put my nose up to the skin. I want to buy some, but a bottle would be madness--based on the projection and longevity I got just from that tiny smear, I suspect that the 1ml vial alone would last me a dozen or more wearings. So, a decant. I think. Though we might be at Scent Bar later this year...


That is all.

Review Roundup: Fragrantica and Now Smell This (from whom I realize that, yes! that scent I can't put my finger on does have a vibe of horse) and Kafkaesque and colognoisseur and Scent For Thought and memoryofscent and FragranceGeek and A Bottled Rose.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Gardening: More Perennials!

I may have mentioned that The Farm has 120 four-foot-by-six-foot beds.

Prepping and planting a bed--lifting the weed barrier, digging or forking, adding fertilizer, adding compost, possibly swapping the weed barrier with a piece that has suitable holes for the new crop, re-attaching the weed barrier, making a watering apparatus or moving in an apparatus suitable for the new crop, manicuring the soil of the holes or drills, possibly adding sand or vermiculite or compost to accept the seeds, possibly mixing seeds with sand, planting seeds or plants, possibly adding a layer of compost, watering the planting in...


...takes at least a couple of hours per bed. Planting a line of several beds--like the 24-by-4-foot garlic bed or last year's 36-by-4-foot bean bed--doesn't really reduce it that much.

120 beds, two or three plantings per bed per year, takes us to, oh, maybe 300 hours of prep-and-plant per year.  On weekends, when the weather is suitable and we're in town and I have time. So this explains why I have yet to get the whole farm in production at one time.


Perennials. Edible perennials. Preferably what I'm calling "soft" perennials--the kind that are easy to move or eat or give away if I want a bed back for annuals, someday when I have more gardening time.

Currently, the perennial list is:
  • Six (seven?) beds of strawberries.
  • Three of black currants.
  • Two and a half of chives.
  • Half a bed of garlic chives.
  • One bed of thyme and oregano and tarragon.
  • One of sage.
  • One of rosemary.
  • One of perennial scallions.
  • Two of Jerusalem artichokes.
  • One of artichokes.
So, nineteen or twenty. I'll probably remember one or two more. So that's a little under twenty percent perennials.

My plans for more include:
  • Another bed of chives.
  • Another five beds of strawberries.
  • Two beds of garlic chives.
  • Ten beds (one full row) of blueberries.
  • Probably six beds of raspberries.
  • A sweet bay.
  • At least one more bed of herbs.
  • Ten roses along the left-hand fence. Probably rugosas, for lots of rose hips, so that they count as food. See the picture up top? Fruity!
  • Ten of something along the right-hand fence, where the ground is painfully gravel-filled from the parking lot next door. Something tough, like maybe butterfly bushes to bring in pollinators for the rest of the stuff.
  • Five evergreen shrubs of some kind, preferably edible or edible-themed, along the front of the five right-hand rows.
  • Another five at the back of those same rows.
What's that add up to? Seventy-six total, leaving twenty-four beds for annuals. Three-quarters perennials. I'm not sure if that's too many or two few annuals. And I'm a little worried about the high number of un-soft ones--for example, you can't peacefully pull a blueberry bush out of the ground and replant it or give it away the way you can a raspberry or a clump of chives. But it's going to take me plenty of time to plant the extra fifty-six (fifty six!) bed of perennials, so, I have some time to decide how much those things worry me.

Oh, hey, I forgot asparagus. And I keep thinking about breaking the edible theme and planting some peonies.

Anyway, it's a plan.

That is all.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Writing: Highly Flavored Fiction

As usual: Wow, it's been a long time since I posted.

So I've actually been writing fiction. A couple of weeks ago, I started a new strategy: the highly flavored strategy. I'm...

OK, let's just paste in what I wrote on a writing forum at the time.
So after talking about flow over in the writer's block thread, I did some thinking about what used to be rewarding back when I spun daydreams in my head. Some of the appeal, I realize, is that in my own head I embrace any situation that I find emotionally satisfying, even if it seems foolishly angsty or sentimental, and even if it doesn't necessarily fit a neatly coherent and likely plot. I go for immediate emotional reward. For the fictional equivalent of salt and fat and sugar. (Isn't there a Yiddish criticism that translates to "without salt or fat"? Or am I misremembering?)

So I sat down to write a scene in a fictional/fantasy world, with the deliberate determination that when something feels a little too salty or buttery or sugary, I'll embrace that something rather than back off. I'll embrace, in fact pursue, the overflavored first draft.
One goal, I realize a while after writing the above, is to have a period where I enjoy writing fiction. I usually enjoy having written fiction; I don't usually enjoy doing it. I'm enjoying doing this. I've written five thousand words since the third, which is admittedly not a lot, but it's (1) more than my official allotment of 300 a day (446 a day on average), (2) got written during a high-stress time when I'd probably write nothing, and (3) I enjoyed almost every minute of it. I say "almost" because the first couple of sentences, each time I sat down to write, had to fight against resistance, but then I was into enjoyment. Oh, and (4) The plot is surprisingly close to coherent.

The flaw with this as far as the blog is concerned is that highly flavored scenes give me stage fright, so I'm not willing to post them to the blog. We'll see if that changes.

That is all.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Rambling: Farm Rambling

Wow. A month since I posted.

I've been writing scraps of one of my book ideas. Not all that reliably, but more reliably than usual.

The farm is progressing nicely. Much of the following was already discussed, but, hey, I'll re-list!
  • Onions! All the onions! Garlic, potato onions, shallots, French grey shallots, perennial scallions. Oh, and I divided one big clump of chives into 21 sub-clumps. There will be a lot of chives. Later on, I'll do the same thing with a big clump of garlic chives.
  • The Oregon Giant peas are nice big plants and there's a flower or three in the bed; it shouldn't be too long for peas.
  • This past weekend I planted some potatoes--German Butterball, Purple Majesty, and Yukon Gem. Only three beds, instead of the planned six, but I did plant them mostly right. In a later post, I'll probably show pictures. If they, well, grow.
  • Sadly, the raspberries that I planted a few weeks ago didn't grow; six out of nine died. I'm not good with bare root plants. I'm going to prep another set of beds, get more raspberries from either the back yard or the grange, and fill those beds with the new ones and the survivors.
  • I'm moving the survivors because I really wanted to get some beans planted, and the spaces that the dead raspberries vacated were all ready for me to just poke some seeds into the ground. I planted some Blue Lake bush beans in part of it. In the other part, I planted Russian Mammoth sunflowers, with the plan of growing Fortex up them. I had very few of both means; I'll be ordering more.
  • Oh, and herbs. A few weeks ago I planted a new bed of oregano, tarragon, and two kinds of thyme. Soon I'll plant sage and marjoram in another bed.
Oh! And the overwintering cauliflower overwintered! I thought that it had "buttoned" (made an itty bitty head) but I ended up with three perfectly nice heads out of, I think, four plants. (If it was six plants that's obviously rather less successful.)

I'm extra pleased with this year's spring garden, due to the fall and winter planted crops; it doesn't have that sad desolate look. I'm going to try to plant more this coming year. Let's make another list:
  • Again, the garlic, shallots, French shallots, potato onions.
  • Lots more overwintering cauliflower.
  • A much bigger late summer crop of carrots.
  • Late winter peas again.
  • More potatoes--if they work this year.
But I'm also discovering that I simply won't do all the work required to plant every bed every year. So, I'm thinking about some added perennials:
  • If those perennial scallions take hold well, a couple of beds of them.
  • Another multi-bed block of strawberries.
  • Hedgy perennials that are kinda food: Rosemary, sweet bay, roses known to produce lots of hips.
  • Maybe daylilies. People eat the flowers, after all.
  • We've been planning a row of blueberries forever. Someday it might happen.
  • Probably some perennial flowers.
I look at the annual beds that that leaves, and I get nervous. But I've left a number of beds unplanted every single year; it would be a lot more fun to see things growing everywhere. I need to remind myself that if I have more time, I can always give some things away and go back to annuals.

And so. That is all.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

IttyBittyFictionScraps: In which people think

(The conversation continued, leading me to observe that I tend to do all-dialogue, or no-dialogue. This one is no-dialogue.)

Jane peered into the bakery case as she sipped her coffee. Buttercream. Candied violets. Crunchy sugar. Marzipan. Meringues. The cup was half gone by the time she finally ordered. A plate of a few things, please. A mini cupcake. And one of those little layered things. (And the counter girl showed no amusement or disapproval when she ordered it in exactly those words.) And a slice of yellow layer cake with pale chocolate buttercream.

She sat at the table by the window, the one with the cracked marble top. She finished her sugary lunch, then took out her notebook. Now. Get to work.

Who to kill?

And how?

Losing the museum director would throw the operation nicely into chaos, but he was management, and management was always distinctly replaceable. A temporary fill-in would be hired, and he might be, well, competent. That wouldn’t do.

So the key was to find those with irreplaceable skills. That might not even require killing anyone. She preferred that, in a mild way, just as she preferred to eat a salad once in a while. The climate control system, for example, was limping along, tended by a head janitor whose primary purpose was to serve as its nanny. Arrange for that man to retire, and the system would break down within weeks, requiring an evacuation of the more delicate bits of art.

Monday, April 10, 2017

IttyBittyFictionScraps: In which people move

So I posted an all-dialogue bit on the writing forum where I hang out, and there was a feeling from some people that occasionally a dialogue tag or even an action or a scrap of setting might be nice. So I wrote this. And once written, let's blog!

Joe ordered his third Howards End, drank it rapidly, and resumed drumming his fingers on the table. How could this have happened? What would they say? Would they ever forgive him?

“Wow, that’s a lot of glasses.”

Joe jolted out of his reverie and looked up at Alice. When did she get here? “Huh?”

She blinked. “A lot of… Nothing. What’s wrong?” She pulled out a chair and sat on the edge.

“You’re going to kill me.”


He took a deep breath. He grabbed the near-empty glass and slurped the last drops of ice-diluted blackberry vodka from the bottom. He kept on slurping long after the liquid was gone, and was reminded of those scenes in the movies where the traumatized character keeps on pulling the trigger on an empty gun. Click. Slurp. Slurp. Click.

“Joe!” Alice grabbed his shoulder and shook it slightly.

He put the glass down. “I lost the map.”

“Oh!” She released his shoulder. “Is that all?”

He stared. Wait. She wasn’t going to kill him? She always carried those knitting needles; he’d imagined himself being impaled, nailed to the chair. “What?”

“Well, it’s not as if I really believed that it led to treasure.” She air-quoted ‘treasure’. “It was just a fun thing.” She settled into her chair, hung her monstrous purse on its arm, and extracted her knitting. “No big deal.”

He kept on staring, and automatically reached for the glass again, but found to his surprise that he didn’t need its comfort. “Really?”

“Really.” She loosened a length of chartreuse angora. “Not a problem.”

“Is that how Stan is going to feel?”

“Oh.” She looked up, halting in the act of winding the yarn around the needle. “Oh.” The second ‘Oh’ was far deeper.

“He’s going to kill me, isn’t he?” He clutched the glass and started slurping again.

“Maybe you’d better run along. I’ll tell him.”

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

IttyBittyFictionScraps: Invasion

(A scrap written in response to the question of, how do you insert description of the narrator a first-person piece?)

Oh, dear God. It was Mom. I plastered on a smile and opened the door.

Mom tilted her head. "New haircut?"

The smile wavered. "Yes. I told you, I like it short."

"No, dear." She shook her head as she swept past. "It won't do. If you had a chin, that...mass of frizzy blonde might be all right. But with your little round baby face? No. But we can fix the damage. I'm going to make you an appointment with my stylist on Thursday."

"No, you're not." I chased her, glancing frantically around the apartment for evidence of...well, anything. Life. All life must be hidden from Mom.

"You're right." She turned back. "My mistake. Not Thursday. That's the appointment with the dietician."

"I don't need a dietician, Mom."

"Of course you do, dear. I know that you're not technically overweight, but people age. Ten excess pounds today leads to diabetes at fifty."

"That's insane!"

"It would be different if you had the height to carry the weight. Darling, you know the surveys; women five foot six or over are the ones with the good careers. Why aren't you wearing those heels I sent you?"

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Daily Drafts: Turnpike

I'm trying, once again, to write 300 words of fiction a day. I don't know why I'm posting this one. But I am.

What the hell?

Jane stopped at the end of the alley. What was that? There was movement, just barely, in the darkness. An alley and movement would make a person think of rats, or cats, or raccoons, or some similar unpleasantry—well, not that cats are unpleasantries, but alley cats often are—but anyway, that’s not what the movement looked like. It looked upright. It looked like people. Tiny tiny people.

What the hell?

After another moment of peering, she dug into her purse and extracted her phone. After some fumbling she had the flashlight-whatsit working, and she aimed it at the alley. It barely illuminated ahead of her feet, so she cautiously entered the alley for a better view.

The movement all but stopped as soon as she cleared the pool of light from the streetlight. As she moved forward, she heard the occasional skitter and caught a flash of movement in her peripheral, but her light illuminated nothing. Step, skitter, nothing. Step, skitter, nothing. She was halfway down the alley when she became suddenly aware of skittering behind her. Her heart thumped and she sped up, fast-walking to the other end of the alley, emerging rather quickly into a startled-looking post-theater crowd.

The man that she bumped touched her shoulder briefly and gingerly, saying, “You all right?” He glanced past her to the alley, then looked back to her eyes.

“Yeah.” She looked back too. “Yeah. Fine. Just fleeing the elves.” She smiled at him to make it clear that she was joking. She wasn’t.

“Sure.” He grinned, looking relieved. “Did you leave them a gift?”

“A gift?” She frowned and she smiled and she still shook a little.

“Yeah.” The grin weakened. Maybe he could see the shaking. “That’s what my granny said, anyway. It’s like a toll road; you go through the little people’s country, you leave a gift, or they’ll come get one, and you won’t like it.”

“Oh.” She still looked at him, her banter failing her.

Disconcerted, he offered, “They love tobacco, Granny always said. I could leave them a cigarette on your behalf.”

“Yeah.” She nodded. “Yeah. Thanks. I’d appreciate that.”

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Farming: Potato Grand Plan

OK, so I'm making a battle plan for planting the potatoes. I write up this sort of thing because I can't get at the farm right now and I want to do something!

  • Cut the seed potatoes if they need cutting. Do this the night before, to allow the cut edges to dry.
  • Buy 36 feet of 4 foot wide weed barrier.
  • Buy enough insect netting to cover 36 feet by roughly 8 feet.
  • Buy three bags of...uh...whatever the brand name of my preferred compost is.
  • Make sure I have a box of my preferred brand of dry organic fertilizer.
I pause here to note that this infrastructure will quite likely cost more than the resulting potatoes will be worth.  

This is alleviated by the fact that the weed barrier can, judging from my past weed barrier experiments, probably be reused for five years or more. (The warranty should tell me how long I can use it, but the warranty requires me to cover it with mulch, and, no.) I'm hoping that leaving it out to freeze will kill any disease that might pass from year to year; if research tells me that it won't, I have other uses for the weed barrier, though that does hamper this as an ongoing technique.

I don't yet know how long the insect barrier can be reused, but I also don't know if I'll need it or not in future years, so it might be a one-time experimental expense. It's not really insect barrier in this application, but cat barrier.

Anyway, this time I just want to see if I can create a "patient garden" method for growing potatoes without having all that loose soil to weed. Later, I'll focus more on making it a cost-effective method.

OK, moving on. Keep in mind that all the extra work is intended to prevent weeds once, rather than fight them all year.
  • Lift one side of the existing weed barrier on a continuous strip of six beds. Fold the barrier to one side of the bed, exposing the planting soil.
  • Ground-staple one side of the four-foot weed barrier to the other side of the beds, and one side of the insect netting over that. Fold that back so that the bed is still exposed.
  • Yank any stray weeds in the six beds.
  • Sprinkle fertilizer over the beds. One source says that since I grew beans in those beds last year, I should go lightish on the fertilizer.
  • Spread the compost over the beds.
  • Broadfork two beds.
  • Attack the two beds with a hand fork to mix in the fertilizer and compost a little better, especially in the center.
  • Dig a trench down the center of the two beds, 8 inches wide by 8 inches deep by 12 feet long, dumping the dirt to the two sides of the beds.
  • Place the potatoes in the bottom of the trench at a 9 inch spacing.
  • Cover the potatoes to a depth of four inches.
  • Collapse. If the collapse involves staggering home and groaning on the couch, put the weed barrier back over the bed to keep the cats from using it as a litter box, and pull it back again when returning.
  • Repeat the whole process from "broadfork" for the next two beds.
  • Repeat the collapse.
  • Repeat both again. Separating the work into two-bed sprints reduces the odds that I'll collapse prematurely and fail to plant anything. 
  • Yay! All six beds will be planted. 
  • Pull the four-foot weed barrier to its edge of the trench, and lightly staple it down here and there. It will be lumpy over the dumped dirt from the still-empty four inches of the trench.
  • Do the same for the existing six-foot barrier on the other side. This will have so much excess that I may need to formally fold it and staple down the fold in a few places.
  • Pull the insect netting over the whole thing and staple it down on the other side.
  • Done!
  • Collapse for a very long time, with extensive use of ibuprofen.
A few weeks later, when the potato plants are above the trench, hill up:
  • Fold all that insect barrier and weed barrier back again.
  • Yank any weeds from the tench that are too big to bury when I fill it in.
  • Fill in the trench and, if the potatoes are tall enough, hill up above it, leaving the little potato tops looking half-drowned.
  • If research suggests that it's a good idea, scratch in a little more fertilizer.
  • Pull the weed barrier up to the edge of the potato stems and lightly staple it down. This is the reason for the extra weed barrier width--it has to cover the hilled-up soil.
  • Cover with insect barrier again.
At this point, in theory, almost all of the soil is covered with weed barrier, and the potatoes are growing away underneath.

A few weeks later, try to find a chance to do a second hilling. This may involve stealing soil from another bed.

Then just wait. It occurs to me that when it's time to harvest the potatoes, I can follow the traditional advice of leaving them to dry on the ground for a few hours, because I can once again pull the insect netting over them.

IttyBittyFictionScraps: Mildew

(A scrap that I wrote as part of a discussion of that "show, don't tell" thing, in the writing forum where I hang out.)

Henry opened the fridge and studied the sticky, empty shelves. Half an inch in the milk jug. Broccoli browning on the edges. And that nervous-making smell that signals bad happenings in the depths of the crisper. If Jane were here, this would be the signal for "Grocery time!" in that terrible chirpy Scarlett O'Hara voice. He'd never have to hear that chirp again. Thank God.

But he really wouldn't mind a slice of her meatloaf.

Feh. Who needs meatloaf with a restaurant on every block? He shut the fridge and studied the window, watching as the rain ran down behind the...yeah, yeah, fine, so the glass was dusty, so what? A man has better things to do than chirp "Cleaning time!" and bustle around with lemon oil and a feather duster.



Don't you dare cry.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fiction: Food Safety

I miss posting fiction. The theory was to stop posting and maybe I'd eventually write something that I could, y'know, submit somewhere, because you can't submit it after you've blogged it. But then I stopped writing fiction much at all. So, here we are. This one is from July, but I don't think I ever posted it.

The teacher told the second grade, "For tomorrow's art project, bring the shells from two hard-boiled eggs."

"Large or extra-large?" asked Josh.

"It doesn't matter."

"But it has to matter. Extra-large eggs are twenty percent bigger. That's more eggshell."

The teacher studied Josh, then sighed. "If you have extra-large eggs, bring two. If you have large, bring three. Then there will be extra."

"Okay." Josh nodded, content.

Josh's mother boiled three eggs before dinner and taught Josh to peel them, but the pieces came out too small. She boiled more after dinner, but the pieces came out with egg on them. She boiled more right before Johnny Carson, and made him promise to take them to school whole.

"Miss Othmar will show you how she wants them peeled."

"But peeling them is homework! You do homework at home!"

Josh's mother studied Josh, then sighed. "You can bring the eggshells in, too, to show your work."

"Okay." Josh nodded, content.

The next morning, Josh was horrified to learn that his father had thrown the eggshells into the compost heap.

"They're filthy! I can't bring those in!"

"I'm sorry, Josh. That's what I always do with eggshells. I didn't know."

Josh packed up the whole eggs and took them to class, where he told the teacher, "I wasn't too lazy to peel them. I peeled some others, but my father threw them away."

"It's all right, Josh," assured the teacher. "These are very nice."

"I've got three."


"They're extra-large, but I wasn't sure about the twenty percent."


"So I brought three."


"Is that enough?"

"It's plenty. You have extra. Don't worry."

Halfway through making the eggshell picture, Melinda Conner edged over to Josh. "Teacher says you have extra. Can I have some?"

Josh frowned at her. "Why didn't you bring your own?"

"My brother ate my eggs and put the shells in the trash. I would have gotten them back, but they touched the chicken package."

Josh's eyes widened, and they both said it at once. Like an a cappella choir. "Salmonella."

They blinked at each other, and both of them smiled.

Fourteen years later, they were married. With two prenuptial agreements, and a spray bottle of diluted bleach in the kitchen. They were very happy.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Gardening: Running to keep up

I'm planning the next garden work session. Gardening time is in very, very short supply this year. The next session will be some weeks from now (long story), and ideally would include:
  • Planting six beds of potatoes.
  • Planting four Jerusalem artichoke tubers....somewhere.
  • Planting four beds of onion sets.
  • Planting four beds of cosmos.
  • Planting two beds of strawberries.
  • Planting two blueberry plants.
And some other things that I've probably forgotten. This is not a realistic amount of work (18 beds?! Are you mad?) so I need to set priorities.

I ordered three types of potatoes; the "six beds" is based on using up the minimum amount that you can order per variety. So I could narrow the six beds down to three, if my primary goal is trying all three, rather than maximizing the volume of potatoes produced. I could also do some research--could I plant the others much more closely, on the theory of harvesting them as new potatoes? 

I think that I'm just going to insert the Jerusalem artichokes in the ground, any bit of ground, with  no particular prep. Hopefully they'll sprout there rather than rot, and maybe I can transplant them later. That's assuming that they survive in the wait, in the fridge.

The onion sets can produce scallions or be left alone to produce bulb onions. Can I plant them fairly thickly, thin out the scallions, and expect the remaining onions to make bulb onions? Or will that involve too much competition or root disturbance for the bulb onions to happen? Research.

The cosmos tolerate quite poor soil, but...well, I should forget the "but". I could cut some drills in the weed barrier, scratch the soil, plant the cosmos. By the time I would have time to prepare those beds thoroughly, either the cosmos will be up and I won't have to, or they'll have failed and I'll prepare them nicely for, say, zinnias.

We're running out of time for bare root strawberry plants, but not for plants in pots. And, I can transplant some of the excess from the existing strawberry beds. So I don't think that any strawberries will be going in this time.

And I think that blueberries are going to wait Yet Another Year. In the unlikely event that I have some spare time before the ground dries out, I could till in some peat and sulfur, for next year.

So...hurriedly insert the Jerusalem artichokes, get three beds of potatoes planted properly, and then see what I have time for. That's the plan. Oh, and I've got about thirty-six feet of drills that I think could support one more planting of some light feeder, so I should get seeds of something in there.

I reassure myself with what's already in and growing:

  • Five beds, plus enough spare drills to count as a sixth, planted with an assortment of garlic, shallots, French grey shallots, and potato onions.
  • Two beds of snap peas.
  • Four (four?) beds of raspberries.
  • Three existing black currant bushes.
  • Six or seven beds of existing strawberry plants.
  • A couple dozen little nubs of lettuce that will hopefully expand into heads when the weather warms up.
  • Six feet of growing carrots and six feet of just-seeded carrots.
  • Twelve feet of golden beets.
  • Six chives, six garlic chives, a nice big rosemary bush, and we'll see if the sage, oregano, and tarragon come back.
  • An artichoke that will, again, hopefully be back. (The one in front. The one in back was a gopher dinner.)
That's food, yes? Yes! 

That is all.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Farm Diary: Seeds!

I planted Touchstone golden beets and Oxheart carrots, in the front bed of the currant row. Last time, I planted the carrots ever so carefully--I finely pulverized the soil, pressed a very shallow furrow, mixed a pinch of carrot seed with some compost, sprinkled it into the furrow, firmed it, and watered it veeeeeery gently.

This time I broke up the soil, threw some seed on it, and watered it.

The first time was a success. We'll see how this time goes.

That appears to be all.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Farm Diary: Spring Update

So while I'm talking farming, I'll add some factlets.

  • Two out of three garlic beds are doing well. The third one was semi-flooded in the rains of several weeks ago, and it appears that part of the garlic isn't coming back. By the way, I say "garlic beds", but I really mean all of the bulbous alliums that I planted in the fall--garlic, shallots, French shallots, and potato onions.
  • I planted pod peas, as discussed in the last post.
  • Today I bought bare root raspberries--three Heritage, three Amity, one Fall Gold, of something else. (I left the tags on, so I'll know when I go back out there. A spring-bearing variety.) I got them all in the ground, at about two feet between plants, and effectively six feet between "rows"--that is, there was just one "row" and it was six feet wide. I hope they take. At that spacing, there's room for two more; I may or may not grab a couple.
  • I ruthlessly cleared three beds where some lettuce had mostly failed. (You remember that presprouting in cornstarch gel experiment? Didn't go so well.) The ruthlessness is to keep me from hesitating about planting something else. Now I'm debating whether to lift the fabric and add more amendments, to treat the soil as if it's still freshly prepped because surely the failed lettuce didn't take much out of it, or to take a middle ground compromise of scratching in a little fertilizer to replace what has probably washed out.  Anyway, either way, I think I'm going to plant Oxheart carrots and both red and gold beets there. (A quick Google tells me that these are light to medium feeders. I think I'm going to treat the soil as freshly prepped, in that case.)
  • I just ordered six pounds of seed potatoes. I'm planning to plant them with the weird weed barrier method that I have yet to illustrate, to allow me to hill them up but not have a bunch of bare soil growing weeds or attracting cats. I almost got more specific about what the cats would do, but you all know.
  • I also ordered two pounds of Forum onion sets, which are supposedly appropriate for making bulbs in my climate. 
  • I decided against ordering Copra onion plants. I might change my mind again.
  • Tomorrow I may or may not go out to buy a couple of blueberry plants and insert them in the ground to wait for me to properly amend some soil--because it looks like they're about to sell out of them at the grange.
  • I went to the Seed Swap and bought three Jerusalem artichoke tubers.
So if I follow this plan, next year's garden will be heavy on
  • Bulbing alliums.
  • Potatoes.
  • Possibly Jerusalem artichokes.
  • Soft fruit. (Currants, strawberries, raspberries, and maybe blueberries.)
  • Snap peas and snap beans. (I didn't mention the snap beans above, but we always grow them.
  • Root vegetables.
Oh, and pumpkins. We always grow pumpkins. But they're not food so much as ornamental.  And there will probably be ornamental cutting flowers, too.

There are other things that make me think, "But--but I want 'em!" But looking back at the record, we don't eat much of them. Lettuce and other greens, Armenian cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet corn--lovely things, but aside from the joy of contemplating the corn stalks, are they worth the effort?

Now, we probably don't eat a tenth of the soft fruit, either, but the glee of bending over and snatching a homegrown strawberry whenever I want one is worth it, and I anticipate that the same will be true of the raspberries and the theoretical blueberries. I can't make a similar argument for the currants, but I can't kill them after five(?) years, can I?


That is all.

Gardening: Selection Opportunity or Dumb Seed Luck?

I'm mostly typing this here because I have a tendency to lose my garden notes.

So, several weeks ago I planted some Oregon Giant Sugar Pod ("OSU 706", and what does that mean?) peas. I knew it was probably too early, but it seemed worth a try. Three twelve-foot drills, eighteen inches apart. Four to five seeds per foot, so 4.5 X 36 is about 160 seeds. I also covered the area with that spun row cover stuff. I uncovered it this week expecting to confirm my suspicion that I had a complete crop failure, and found that six of those seeds had come up.

At first, that seemed like a possibly interesting breeding selection opportunity--six seeds out of 160 is 1/27, so maybe those six seeds were genetically special--more able to sprout in early spring cold and damp. And the earlier a seed will sprout the better, if I'm trying to dryfarm--I want the plants to get a nice start while the ground is spring-wet.

So I marked "early" on six little popsicle sticks and put each stick a couple of inches to the right of a plant, hopefully far enough that I didn't disturb its roots in any significant way. That would allow me to distinguish those plants from the ones that will hopefully come up after today's replanting, and save seeds from them.

Then I realized that five out of the six winners were on the "uphill" drill--the three drills sloped downhill juuust a little bit. And all the poking around for replanting made it clear that that uphill drill also had more compost--it was substantially lighter and better-drained than the other two drills. The sixth plant was in a slightly raised part of the middle drill. So those seeds weren't competing with all 160, but just with their peers in conditions of better drainage.

So we're not really talking about six special seeds out of 160, but more like five special seeds out of 60, or one out of twelve. One happy seed out of twelve seems like it could easily just be dumb luck--those seeds could have just been poked in a little shallower or gotten a better pocket of dirt.

But I left the popsicle sticks there, and I'm tentatively still planning to save some seeds. That means that I need to save seeds from some of the other plants, if I want to stage a trial next year.

I'm also debating whether I should save seed from the sixth, middle-drill, plant, giving me three separate populations of seed. No reason why not, really.

Anyway. That is all.

Bead Therapy: Bead Doodle 6


Friday, March 10, 2017

Bead Therapy: Bead Doodle 5

Beadie beadie.

Eventually I'll post words again.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bead Therapy: Bead Doodle 4

Doodle doodle.

I really should use a camera with better macro capabilities. (Do I mean macro? I think I mean macro.)


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Bead Therapy: Bead Doodle 3

What's with the doodles?

I don't know.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Bead Therapy: Bead Doodle 2

Botanical? Acquatic? Invading alien? I'm leaning toward botanical.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Bead Therapy: Bead Doodle 1

Yeah, it's a little strange.

That is all.

Photo: Mine.

Fried: Fusspot Chicken

We ate at Fusspot Chicken last night, for the first time. They're a once-a-month Portland, Oregon fried chicken popup. It's some of the very best fried chicken I've ever paid for--only misty distant memories like The Green Parrot compete with it.

In any case, you want to eat it. Really. Just sign up for next month. Pre-order for April 1 opens tomorrow morning. Yum. Hurry up.

Returning to add: You may say "Korean-style fried chicken? What's that like? I want regular fried chicken." My fried chicken "school" is Tennessee pan-fried, and if you don't use the sauce, this will fulfill that craving just fine. On the bone with astoundingly crisp skin, and it's handed to you without sauce; you add it yourself.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Bead Therapy: Fishy Fishy

I've been stressed.

I learned a beading backstitch from a web site that I can no longer find. I discovered that it has a nice meditative feel, and I enjoy all the shiny beads.

I started with fishes. I post my fishy creations. Just because.

That is all. (Except for the photos.)

Images: Mine.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Rambling: Tubers. Or, Feed a Cold!

Potatoes are frying. Hash browns.

I also fried potatoes yesterday.

And possibly the day before.

I'm on the third solid week of the cold, and until I'm better, I'm going to eat potatoes whenever I want them.

We just saw a nice British gardening show with Jerusalem artichokes. Those things in the picture. The gardener referred to them as a "slacker vegetable"--meaning that they're a vegetable for slackers. I've added them to the list of things to consider growing next year.

I'm also debating trying potatoes again. Growing, that is. I have a scheme for using the weed barrier to keep me from having to weed them--starting out folded, so that I can fold it back, hill up, and then put it back in place.

The potatoes have now transitioned from the pan to my stomach. Well, a plate and fork were involved. It's possible that I've actually eaten too much butter. Well, of course it's too much butter; I mean that I'm perceiving it as too much butter. I'm feeling rather overfed.

So I'm now filled with potatoes, acetaminophen, guaifenesin, dextromethorphan, ibuprofen, and butter. Oh, and orange juice.

That is all.

Jerusalem Artichoke picture: Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Rambling: Shiny!

I ordered vintage sequins from Etsy.

I don't know why.

I await them eagerly.

That is all.

Image: By Pea Chesh. Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Rambling: Potatoes and Heat and Fat

I'm frying potatoes.

I recently said, on a writing forum where I hang out, that if a writer imagined the potato, nobody would believe in it. Easy to plant, easy to harvest, easy to store, easy to propagate. Rejoices in cold wet weather that many other crops can't tolerate. Poisonous foliage so that not many things come along and eat it. Very high calories per square foot. Carbs and protein and, of all things, vitamin C.  What more could you want?

I took a writing break and ate the potatoes. Mm, butter.

I caught a cold. When I catch a cold I tend to feel all anxious and Looming Doomish. Potatoes are helpful. Oddly, chocolate isn't.

I'm putting all the nervous-making things that I should be doing this week on the shelf, to do next week when I hopefully feel better. This week, potatoes.

Um. That is all.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Sewing: More SWAPpery.

Look! That's my SWAP so far, all folded and stacked up.  I have two jackets, four skirts, and a shirt.  So far.

You want the details, right? Right?  OK, you won't openly yawn while I tell you right, right? OK, then.

As previously discussed, I've been working with Butterick 5261, an out-of-print shirt jacket.

I made the first version in November, out of an indigo silk/linen blend, as an Early Bird garment under the SWAP rules. I used the straight-hem version and deepened the hem, giving it vents. I also converted the gathered cuffs to ones with tiny pleats--not a pattern change; I just did the pleating instead of gathering. I dislike gathers.

This was intended to be a wearable muslin, and I was sure that it would be far too big--I used the biggest size rather than working my way through multiple muslins. But as it turns out, I enjoy the rumply oversized result. (It's not quite as rumply as it looks in the photo.)

I put a tiny bit of button and bead gloss on it.

I made a green version after that, as described in this post, but I got the timing wrong for Early Bird, so it's not a part of the SWAP. (I started it after November 5, but didn't finish it before December 26.) I anticipated making lots of additional pattern changes, but in the end I just made a size down, and lengthened it a bit. Then I regretted lengthening and just turned all the extra length up into a Really Deep Hem.

Then, as discussed, I picked up McCall's 6654 and made View E in a soft pale grey knit. I don't have a photo, because I'm wearing it. It's delightfully comfy; I intended these clothes to replace jeans-wearing, but this one is so comfortable that it replaces sweats-wearing. Yay!

Then I made it again in dark grey. Then I shortened it slightly (View E is almost ankle-length on me) and made it in moss green and in black. Then I discovered that the scraps left from the dark grey version were enough to make slightly above knee view. So, four skirts. They all look more or like the one on the left.

Next! I made a cotton houndstooth version of the jacket, without any significant pattern changes, but another size down. I'm not sure if I'm happy with it--several small things went wrong. The fabric didn't have as much drape as I wanted, it turns out that I miss the oversized nature of the bigger size, I ran out of fabric and made bracelet length sleeves that I don't know if I like, and so on.

But I committed some pretty nice buttons to it in the hope that they take it over the edge to a success.

Then I made the Style Arc Lauren Butterfly Boyfriend (butterfly? where did I get butterfly the first time I posted this?) shirt. I straightened the shirttail hem, and made it a deep hem with vents.

There were enough flaws to give it a homemade feel, so I decided to just embrace that vibe and give it some nice old-fashioned glass buttons. Now it feels to me like something I might have gotten from a vintage shop.

That's all! I point, again, to the stack.

Next? Another shirts. I'm planning to remove those long folded cuffs from the shirt and just give it hemmed (deep, vented hems) sleeves. And then remove the collar and just use a slightly modified collar stand.

That is all! For now.

Images: Mine.